Monday, February 7, 2011

Hard graft and total dedication for GOR Team Mabire-Merron

Global Ocean Race:
Of the 19 teams so far entered in the double-handed, Class40, Global Ocean Race 2011-12 (GOR), the campaign of the Franco-British duo, Halvard Mabire and Miranda Merron, is one of the most ambitious. In late September last year, the Finot-Conq Design Pogo 40S² hull #101 – the fifth, new generation Pogo - left Christian Bouroullec’s Structures Chantier Naval yard in Brittany and was transported 330 miles on a low-loader to Mabire and Merron’s boatyard-base in Barneville, Normandy. Since the yacht’s arrival, work has rarely ceased in the duo’s immaculate boatshed.

One of the first, major tasks, undertaken in mid-November, was installing the Lombardini engine: although slightly heavier and more compact than a French, back-row, international rugby player, Mabire compared this complex operation with manoeuvring the inert form of Sébastien Chabal through the companionway hatch and into the bilge. Once the L’homme des Cavernes (Caveman) was bolted in place, the duo focused on the ballast system: “The ballast tanks were built and fitted at Structures,” explains Mabire. “But we had to design and fit the plumbing, scoops and pump.” Recently, the duo has been concentrating on the deck layout: “It’s complicated to design a really efficient deck plan that suits us both,” he continues.

While Mabire’s professional background has been divided between racing and boatbuilding, the shed-environment is relatively new territory for Miranda Merron. “Halvard’s the expert here and I’m the apprentice,” she admits. “But I am learning many of the essential skills and can complete a number of the jobs myself,” Merron continues. “Right now we’re building the mainsheet track support.” However, Mabire is fully involved with the design process and this vital element eats into each day: “There really aren’t enough hours in a day to complete manual work on the boat and spend time developing the drawings for the mast, keel and so on,” says Mabire. The boat’s mast is currently under construction at Eric Duchemin and Philippe Boclet’s Axxon Composites facility in Romania, but this has barely reduced the workload: “It’s seven, long days a week, pretty much every week, just working on the boat and the project,” adds Merron.

While the duo was concentrating on their boat and campaign, four Pogo 40S²’s raced in the 44-strong, Class40 Route du Rhum fleet and Merron was following the competition. “I did manage to follow the race as I had a number of friends competing,” she says. Three of the latest Pogo’s were in the top ten finishers - Nicolas Troussel in 2nd with Crédit Mutuel de Bretagne; Damien Grimont in 5th on Monbana and GOR entry Jean-Edouard Criquioche in 7th with Groupe Picoty – and while this result is impressive, Mabire is pragmatic: “It is good, but they certainly had the right people driving those boats!”

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